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Updated: March 5, 2013 21:22 IST

RAW appeal

Hema Vijay
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SALAD DAYS Smriti Kirubanandân
SALAD DAYS Smriti Kirubanandân

Living entirely on uncooked meals? Yes, says Smriti Kirubanandan, underlining the amazing health benefits she has derived from this diet over the past six-and-a-half years

Imagine a life without cooked food, be it baked, steamed, boiled, sautéed, grilled or fried. Well, for Chennai-bred and now Los Angeles-based marketing coordinator and nutritional consultant Smriti Kirubanandan, this is no raw deal. For the past six-and-a-half years now, this 26-year-old has been living entirely on raw food, and claims to be enjoying optimum health because of it.

“It is a myth that you can satisfy your protein requirements only by consuming milk and meat. One can plan a risk-free and balanced meal comprised only of uncooked fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts. In fact, a fruits-only diet is considered as being of the highest quality, which is why the yogis in ancient days lived on fruits. Raw food can be therapeutic and helps fight some diseases too,” she claims.

She concedes that fruits and veggies are, no doubt, expensive. At the same time, she questions the rationale behind spending an enormous amount of time and money on medical issues that could have been averted by adequate nutrition and fitness. “I come from a family of high-flying doctors and engineers, but many of them have health problems brought on by bad food habits,” she remarks.

Not a sacrifice

For Smriti, food is limited to smoothies and salads made solely from fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts and occasionally, some dehydrated sprouted brown rice flakes. “I don’t feel that I am making a sacrifice by sticking to raw food. On the contrary, I feel jubilant. My energy levels are high, I sleep well. My muscle tone, body mass composition and body mass index are fine; my visceral fat level is a healthy 2 per cent, and body fat is between 10 and 13 per cent, which is considered to be exceptionally good. My skin and hair are very healthy too. I have never fallen sick for the past several years. I am a long-distance runner and a practitioner of ashtanga yoga. Doesn’t that convince you,” she asks. “For the sake of courtesy, I may accept a spoon of cooked food when I am invited elsewhere for a meal,” she adds.

Raw food as fast-food

The switch to a totally raw food diet began during her student days at Carnegie Mellon University where Smriti did her B-Tech in Computer Science and Engineering. That was when she did not have much time to cook her own meals. Later, her passion for health and nutrition led her to acquire a certification as a nutrition consultant from American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA). She has, now, set her sights on opening a raw food restaurant in her hometown Chennai. Apparently, one can make delicious dishes from raw food; some of them can even be made to taste like cooked food. “For instance, you can make a samosa with veggies and spices as the stuffing and dehydrated coconut meat for the wrap,” she informs.

Smriti also advocates organic food. Her recent workshop at a city-based gym is one of the steps in her campaign to draw people’s attention on to the benefits of raw food. She says, “Food loses its nutritional value during the cooking process. For instance, cooked food would have lost about 70 per cent of its vitamin C content, and 50 per cent of vitamin B and folate. Eating food raw ensures that your body gets 85-95 per cent of its nutritional requirement. And you don’t have to go totally raw. Even eating a few uncooked meals helps.”

Finally, a word of caution. “Cooking kills bacteria and worm infestation, if present. So, if you are going to eat raw food, you have to be very careful about following high standards of hygiene,” warns consultant dietician Dr. Nirmala Jesudason. Indigestion and nutritional deficiencies could also occur if you go fully raw, and, at times, conditions like diabetes could get aggravated. It is best, therefore, to consult a physician or a dietician before starting on a raw food diet.

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